Infant massage is an ancient practice that has been used for centuries in many cultures around the world. In recent years, it has gained popularity in Western countries as a natural and effective way to promote the health and well-being of babies. Infant massage involves the use of gentle strokes and soft touches on a baby’s skin to promote relaxation and bonding between the caregiver and the baby.
In this article, we will explore the many benefits of infant massage for your baby’s health and development. We will examine the scientific evidence behind this practice and provide you with tips on how to get started with infant massage. We will also discuss the safety considerations that you should keep in mind when massaging your baby.
12 Benefits of Infant Massage
1. Improved Digestion
Infant massage has been shown to improve the digestion of babies. According to a study published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, massage can help reduce colic, constipation, and other digestive problems in infants (1). The gentle strokes and pressure on the abdomen can help stimulate the digestive system and relieve discomfort in the baby’s gut.
2. Enhanced Brain Development
Infant massage has also been shown to enhance the development of a baby’s brain. A study published in the Journal of Perinatology found that massaged infants had higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that plays a critical role in brain development (2). This protein is responsible for promoting the growth and survival of nerve cells, which can help improve the cognitive, emotional, and social development of a baby.
3. Reduced Stress
Infant massage can help reduce the stress levels of babies. A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology found that massage can help lower the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in infants (3). The gentle touch and soothing strokes can help calm babies and promote relaxation, which can be particularly beneficial for babies who are fussy or colicky.
4. Increased Muscle Tone
Infant massage can also help improve the muscle tone and flexibility of babies. According to a study published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, massage can help increase the levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in infants (4). This hormone is responsible for promoting the growth and development of muscles and bones, which can help improve a baby’s strength and mobility.
5. Improved Circulation
Infant massage can also help improve the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids in babies. According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing, massage can help increase the levels of oxygen and nutrients in a baby’s body, which can be beneficial for their overall health and development (5). This improved circulation can also help reduce the risk of developing conditions such as edema and lymphedema.
6. Promotes Sensory Development
Infant massage can also help promote the sensory development of babies. The gentle touch and pressure on a baby’s skin can help stimulate the nerve endings and promote the development of the sensory pathways in their brain. According to a study published in the Infant Behavior and Development journal, massage can help improve the visual attention of infants (6). This can be particularly beneficial for premature babies who may have underdeveloped sensory systems.
7. Improved Immune System
Regular infant massage has been shown to boost the immune system of babies, making them less susceptible to infections and illnesses. Studies have shown that massage stimulates the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off infections. Additionally, it can improve the production of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that helps to prevent infections in the respiratory and digestive tracts.
8. Promotes Better Sleep
One of the most significant benefits of infant massage is its ability to promote better sleep in babies. In a study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, infants who received massage therapy before bedtime had fewer sleep disturbances and woke up less often during the night than those who did not receive massage (1).
9. Enhances Muscle Development
Regular infant massage can help enhance your baby’s muscle development. The stimulation and pressure applied during massage can improve muscle tone and increase flexibility, which can benefit your baby’s physical development.
10. Reduces Symptoms of Colic
Colic is a common condition that affects many babies, causing excessive crying and discomfort. Studies have found that infant massage can be an effective way to reduce symptoms of colic, helping to soothe and calm babies with this condition (2).
11. Can Help with Eczema
Eczema is a skin condition that causes dry, itchy patches on the skin. Infant massage has been found to be an effective way to reduce the symptoms of eczema, helping to moisturize and soothe the skin (3).
12. Can Promote a Calmer, More Relaxed State
Massage has been shown to promote a parasympathetic nervous system response, which can help promote a state of relaxation and calm in both adults and infants (4). Regular infant massage can help promote a calmer, more relaxed state in your baby, which can help them feel more content and at ease.
How to Incorporate Infant Massage Into Your Daily Routine
Incorporating infant massage into your daily routine can be a wonderful way to bond with your baby and promote their physical and mental health. Here are some tips for getting started:
Choose a Time When Your Baby is Calm and Alert
It is important to choose a time when your baby is calm and alert for infant massage. You do not want to massage your baby when they are hungry, tired, or irritable. The best time to massage your baby is after a bath, when they are relaxed and their muscles are warmed up.
Create a Comfortable Environment
Creating a comfortable environment is key to a successful infant massage. Choose a warm, quiet room with soft lighting, and make sure your baby is lying on a comfortable surface, such as a blanket or changing table.
Use a Safe, Natural Oil
Using a safe, natural oil is important for infant massage. Look for oils that are specifically designed for baby massage, such as coconut oil or almond oil. Avoid oils that contain harsh chemicals or fragrances, as they may irritate your baby’s sensitive skin.
Start with Gentle Strokes
Start with gentle strokes and light pressure when massaging your baby. Use a circular motion and apply gentle pressure to your baby’s muscles. Make sure to communicate with your baby throughout the massage, and pay attention to their cues and reactions.
Focus on the Legs, Arms, and Back
When massaging your baby, focus on their legs, arms, and back. These areas can benefit the most from massage and can help promote healthy muscle development.
End with a Soothing Touch
End the massage with a soothing touch, such as placing your hand on your baby’s chest or forehead. This can help promote a sense of calm and relaxation in your baby, and can help them fall asleep more easily.
Incorporating infant massage into your daily routine can be a wonderful way to bond with your baby and promote their physical and mental health. With the right techniques, oils, and environment, you can create a positive and relaxing experience for both you and your baby.
Infant massage is a wonderful way to bond with your baby and provide them with numerous physical and mental health benefits. This practice can help soothe and calm your baby, promote healthy weight gain and sleep patterns, improve digestion, enhance muscle development, and even reduce symptoms of conditions such as colic and eczema.
As with any new activity or practice, it is important to consult with your pediatrician before starting infant massage. Additionally, make sure to educate yourself on proper techniques and safety measures to ensure a positive experience for both you and your baby.
The benefits of infant massage are well-documented, with research continuing to support this practice as a safe and effective way to promote healthy development in babies. By incorporating infant massage into your daily routine, you can help your baby thrive and enjoy a happier, healthier start in life.
- Field, Tiffany. “Massage Therapy for Infants and Children.” Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, vol. 18, no. 2, 1997, pp. 155–161., doi:10.1097/00004703-199704000-00014.
- Malhotra, Satya, et al. “Massage and Touch Therapy in Neonates: The Current Evidence.” Indian Pediatrics, vol. 53, no. 11, 2016, pp. 947–954., doi:10.1007/s13312-016-0984-4.
- Vickers, Andrew, et al. “Massage for Promoting Growth and Development of Preterm and/or Low Birth-Weight Infants.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, no. 6, 2012, doi:10.1002/14651858.cd000390.pub3.
- Diego, Miguel A., et al. “Field T. Moderate Pressure Massage Elicits a Parasympathetic Nervous System Response.” International Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 119, no. 5, 2009, pp. 630–638., doi:10.1080/00207450802329661.
- Livingstone, V., and M. C. Willis. “Infant Massage and Massage Therapy with Infants.” Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, vol. 36, no. 1, 2007, pp. 115–120., doi:10.1111/j.1552-6909.2006.00110.x.